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Texas vs. Kansas State: Preview and Game Thread

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The Texas Longhorns look to close out Big 12 play with a victory over Kansas State at 3 PM CT on ESPN2

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

For the Texas Longhorns to sneak into the NCAA Tournament, they absolutely must come out on top in their regular season finale against the upset-minded Kansas State Wildcats. It’s as simple as that. If Texas loses, an invitation to the NIT will replace their hopes of a NCAA tourney bid before the Longhorns ever get a chance to make some noise in the Big 12 Tournament.

Luckily for Texas, they’ve finally gotten their feet back underneath them after a 61-50 OT victory over No. 14 Baylor – in a game the Horns’ literally had to fight to win – and closing out the season at home against a K-State club that they’ve already beaten on the road gives reason to believe Texas may close out their regular season stint on a good note.

As for Kansas State: they’re fresh off of back-to-back home upsets over No. 8 Kansas and No. 12 Iowa State, and just as they displayed in the first meeting between the two, the Wildcats are completely capable of going blow-for-blow with Texas and will be looking for a third-straight upset in their own last-second efforts to construct a tournament-worthy resume.

A Look At K-State

Kansas State is the kind of team that rarely gives you what you expect. Sometimes, bottom-feeders like Texas Tech and TCU embarrass them, while other nights result in the Wildcats topping national powers.

The same inconsistencies can be seen across the board from K-State's key contributors. Marcus Foster has led the Wildcats in scoring this season at 12.9 per game, but has digressed to a near non-factor upon returning from a three-game suspension. In his last five outings, Foster has churned out only 7.8 points per night on 27 percent shooting (12-44), which includes a horrid 4-26 effort from deep (15%).

Nigel Johnson has averaged only 5.1 points this season, but exploded for 20 and 17-point nights against Kansas and Iowa State, which makes his point production over the last two games equal to that of his previous 12 outings. Nino Williams, the team’s second leading scorer at 11.3 per game is capable of making a difference on any given night, but even he hasn’t done on a nightly basis, as he’s failed to score more than six points in six of K-State’s previous 11 games. In reality, at this point in the season, the only guy who has been good for some consistent production has been the senior Thomas Gipson, who averages 11 points and five rebounds.

As a unit, things don’t get much better for the Wildcats, who are 9th in the Big 12 in scoring at 63.4 per, dead last in the conference in rebounds with 31.4 per game and at the bottom of the Big 12 in shot rejections with only 2.3 per game.

Texas’ Keys To Victory

Attack the paint early. Kansas State lacks quality depth in the paint, with their only reliable options being Stephen Hurt and Gipson. Not only should Texas be forcing the ball into the paint because it’s their strength, but putting K-State’s big men in foul trouble early will only make the lives of Cameron Ridley and Myles Turner easier on the offensive end. And as expected, if Texas can have their way in the paint, the responsibilities of the guards won’t be as demanding.

Get the guards going. In the past two games for Texas, Demarcus Holland has put up 27 points, Kendal Yancy has seen back-to-back 11-point games and Isaiah Taylor racked up 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in the Longhorns’ loss to Kansas before stepping up late and knocking down the game winning floater against Baylor on Monday. If each of these guys can continue their recent success, Texas shouldn’t have any problem closing their regular season out with a win.

Send Jonathan Holmes Away On A Good Note. Regardless of how unfortunate Big 12 play has been to Jonathan Holmes this season, there’s no denying that he’s been a huge part of Texas turning things around last season, just as he went above and beyond to accommodate for the acquisition of Turner by dropping some weight and changing his game to become a small forward. On Saturday in Austin, Holmes will be playing his final game in the Frank Erwin Center and not only would it a feel-good moment to see the senior conclude his senior night with a victory after recent criticism, but Holmes getting back on track would be a great springboard for Texas heading into the Big 12 Tournament.

Prediction

In the final game of the regular season for Texas, the Longhorns simply have too much at stake to drop one to a K-State team that also needs a miracle to get into the NCAAs. Texas comes to play and heads into the Big 12 tourney with some momentum.

Texas: 68

Kansas State: 56